Downtown Poulsbo will again display Pride flags in June

Downtown Poulsbo will be displaying flags once again during Pride month in June, following the City Council’s approval at its April 10 meeting.

$3,500 was allocated for the purchase and design of the flags. Councilmember Britt Livdahl said local creative artist Jo Buxton will design the flags. Livdahl said the design could be modeled after Poulsbo Pride’s flag, which has a Viking City component to them. “It represents Poulsbo and Pride,” she said at a previous council meeting.

The flags will be larger this year and will be displayed higher up as there were some issues with some flags being vandalized and stolen last year. Livdahl hopes the flags can be reused every year going forward. “If we’re going to do this we need to do it in a way that’s sustainable,” Livdahl said.

Councilmember Gary McVey offered his support for displaying the flags at the previous meeting. “I thought it was a real step forward for the community last year. Some people want to make it a religious issue, some want to make it a political issue. To me, it remains a human rights issue, so I think it’s the right thing to do. I like making (the flags) specific to Poulsbo. I think (Poulsbo Pride’s) logo is really attractive.”

Mayor Becky Erickson said at the April 3 meeting she was surprised by some of the backlash the city received last year about flying the flags and wants the council to be prepared for that again this year. “I didn’t realize when we did this it would cause such consternation in the community,” she said. “We did offend a lot of people with this. I took a lot of heat over this. I just want you all to be aware there is some controversy with this.

“Some of the concern I heard last year was from some of the businesses downtown who didn’t necessarily want to take a stand, they just wanted to run their business. Some felt that the way it was done last year put them on the spot,” Erickson said.

When Councilmember Doug Newell said the city should provide more clarity on why the Pride flags are being displayed, Livdahl said: “I don’t think it matters what we say or how much warning we give. People who are bigoted and hold these opinions aren’t going to change their minds if they have more notice. I don’t think we owe anyone an apology.”

A large contingent of people in favor of displaying Pride flags spoke at the April 3 meeting. One commenter was opposed.

“There was a loud minority that we’re opposed to the flags, but the overwhelming majority of people were more than supportive,” Poulsbo Pride executive director Heather McLain said. “Poulsbo Pride is not even a year old, and in that time we have become a beacon of hope and a source of solidarity and strength for the community…When I saw the Pride flags on Front Street I felt safe.”

15-year-old Eliana Frazier, who said she identifies as queer, spoke of the importance of the LGBTQIA2S community feeling safe and welcomed in Poulsbo.

“The data shows that loneliness and a lack of safety is responsible for poor well-being in queer youth,” she said. “We can counter that by making Poulsbo residents feel celebrated and safe. The simple act of displaying Pride flags makes a huge difference.

“We know that change is always accompanied by resistance but we need to be able to push through that backlash for the sake of our queer community’s well-being…The queer community is here to stay.”

Among others who offered support were Poulsbo First Lutheran Church pastor Kent Shane and downtown business owner Terri Schumacher.